Google Goggles will rock m-learning.

8 12 2009

Back in 2006, I made some predictions about where mobile learning might be heading, including the use of augmented reality or “Heads Up” data displays to provide information on a learner’s environment and allow learning “in situ,”.  Augmented reality has recently really taken off during 2009, with a number of apps on various GPS-enabled mobile phones (notably the iPhone) providing information layered over a camera view of the world; one example of this is the Layar application.

I also predicted the use of image recognition that would effectively enable “visual searches” of objects and images in the real world (and indeed, I reiterated this belief in a comment just yesterday on Stephen Downes’ blog).  Want to know more information on that bridge over there?  No worries!  Just point your camera at it, and image recognition will provide some suggestions on appropriate websites to look at.

When I blogged that idea, however, I’m not sure I expected this technology to actually become available quite so fast.  Today, Google announced a new beta application they’ve coined “Google Goggles“.  And guess what?  Their concept illustrations even features a bridge as the subject of their illustrated example – even if it is an American one rather than an Australian one. 🙂

goggles_landmark

The official Google site for the project (which is still in development) provides a number of ways Goggles can be used to accomplish a “visual search”, including landmarks, books, contact information, artwork, places, logos, and even wine labels (which I anticipate could go much further, to cover product packaging more broadly).

So why is this a significant development for m-learning?  Because this innovation will enable learners to “explore” the physical world without assuming any prior knowledge.  If you know absolutely nothing about an object, Goggles will provide you with a start.  Here’s an example: you’re studying industrial design, and you happen to spot a rather nicely-designed chair.  However, there’s no information on the chair about who designed it.  How do you find out some information about the chair, which you’d like to note as an influence in your own designs?  A textual search is useless, but a visual search would allow you to take a photo of the chair and let Google’s servers offer some suggestions about who might have manufactured, designed, or sold it.  Ditto unusual insects, species of tree, graphic designs, sculptures, or whatever you might happen to by interested in learning.

Just watch this space.  I think Google Goggles is going to rock m-learning…

(via Mobility Site)

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Apple Mobile Learning Roadshow

2 06 2009

I attended the Apple Mobile Learning Roadshow last week, held at Sydney’s Maritime Museum; and I know other M-Learning bloggers will be interested to hear about this event.  It was attended by well over 150 people, and a glance over the name badges indicated that most attendees were from the higher education sector.  All attendees were loaned an iPod Touch 16GB to use during the seminar:

The device was pre-loaded with a number of “apps” (applications/software) that supported learning, most of which were “connected” (i.e. they used or required an internet connection) rather than standalone, and it was a good chance to play with a few new ones (such as this Molecular Modelling app) that I haven’t seen before.

As a designer myself, I happen to love love Apple products – but I am no “fanboy”.  I love the quality, ease-of-use, flair for innovation, and sophisticated, minimalist industrial design that Apple have built their reputation on.  However, in my original evaluation of the iPod Touch (written a full year before the Apps store was released), I was dissatisfied with the device’s lack of certain content creation tools (camera or audio recorder, for example) and its closed proprietary architecture.

Over the past couple of years, Apple have done a great deal to redress these initial shortcomings.  The launch of the Apps Store late last year meant that developers all over the world could finally create ways to use the iPod Touch and iPhone that (I’m sure) nobody at Apple could have envisioned, and opened up these devices for customisation to the needs of users – and learners.  Some of the new apps have helped overcome the shortcomings of the original devices, such as adding advanced recording (and uploading) capabilities to the iPod Touch, and improving the capability of these mobile devices to support constructivist pedagogies.

Much of the Mobile Learning Roadshow explored the various apps that have been created for the iPhone and iPod Touch (including the two linked above).  It turns out that some universities (such as Stanford and Duke universities) have gone so far as to create customised iPhone apps for accessing various aspects of student life, including courses, campus maps (working with the iPhone’s own GPS) and university information. I can see these working well to engage students and provide them with support at (quite literally) their fingertips.

In my opinion, the Apps Store made the iPod Touch and the iPhone significantly more viable as an m-learning device: I could even go so far as to say that the ability to customise and add functionality should be a central tenet of practically all digital devices aiming for lifestyle ubiquity and flexibility.  Since m-learning ties in heavily with concepts of ubiquitous learning, convenience, flexibility and personalisation, I’m sure you’ll understand my initial concerns with the iPod Touch and the iPhone, prior to the opening of the Apps Store.

Some of the Apps that are currently available for supporting learning are really good.  The capacitive multi-touch screen of the iPod Touch and the iPhone are perfectly suited for interacting with 3D models and detailed diagrams, and one developer has managed to fit *all* of Wikipedia into an App that can be used offline on an iPod Touch or iPhone.  Such applications can be particularly valuable for reference, revision, learning from instruction, or for learning activities based on exploration and investigation of existing resources.

The major gripe I have with these learning resources, of course, is not with the resources themselves (which, as I said, are terrific), but with the equity and interoperability issues that accompany most advanced personal learning tools on expensive proprietary platforms.  In a mixed educational environment, there will always be students who cannot afford an iPod Touch or iPhone, making it unethical to mandate the use of these Apps for learning in situations where the same application cannot be used via some other platform to provide equal opportunity and equal access.  Unlike personal computers (which can be made available via “student labs”), it’s not *usually* possible to have “public access” iPods to correct these equity issues; and mandating that *all* students purchase an iPod Touch (for example) will never be met with enthusiasm by those students who can least afford to meet that particular institutional requirement; with even less enthusiasm when some students discover they only have one class each semester that actually *uses* the things; and with dismay when they realise that they bought an iPod Touch this year, but are required to upgrade to the latest version of the device next year to keep up with the latest Apps and/or university standards.

The other gripe I have with the Apps model is that Apple gets to be judge, jury, and executor of all applications that want to be on iPod Touch and iPhone devices.  As Cory Doctorow correctly states in this blog post, that means that it can impose its view on what should or should not be available as an App, and represents a restriction to the freedom of software and, potentially, of thought.

Personal gripes aside, things have certainly progressed a long way for the iPod Touch and iPhone.  While the presenters wouldn’t comment on the issue, I’m personally very optimistic that the next generation of iPhones and iPod Touch devices will come complete with the core functionalities lacking in the current and previous iterations of the hardware (e.g. video recording and MMS), which will make them so much more useful for all kinds of constructivist learning activities centring around learner created content and the sharing of content.

Moving right along, the presentation also looked at iTunes U, a content distribution model for iTunes targetting the higher education sector.  iTunes U allows podcast content to be distributed to university staff and students allong organisational lines – for example, restricted to a class, a department, a faculty, to anyone in the university, or to the world at large.  Stanford University recently made big news all over the world by making its content on developing apps for the iPhone public via its iTunes U presence.  The course received well over a million hits and generated considerable publicity for the university (and for Apple!).  It’s a good example of what can be done in higher education to show off great ideas and opportunities and attract students and industry attention alike.





Create Mobile Websites with Wirenode

26 05 2008

I’ve previously written about Winksite, a service that allows users to create free mobile websites using a CMS-like interface (simply switching on or off various tools and editing options).  Now there’s a new free mobile web site hosting and authoring service called Wirenode, which (instead of a CMS-like, “Web 1.0” interface) uses a Web 2.0/AJAX interface to create mobile websites and integrate Web 2.0 services including Twitter, LinkedIn, RSS, image galleries, or other “widgets”.  The integration also works back into Web 2.0, with a Wirenode widget available for Facebook and Mobile Facebook.  Awesome!

Mobile Pages - iPhone
Unlike Winksite, which is almost completely textual in both content and presentation, Wirenode incorporates media and interactivity, which may even be uploaded by the user, and there’s even an analytics tool for users who like to see how many visitors/students are checking out their mobile site.

It’s a terrific tool to help teachers or students create and present information in a mobile format, and a must-see for other educators interested in utilising mobile devices for enhancing and supporting teaching and learning.

(via Learning Elearning)

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Create free quizzes for cellphones/ Facebook/ Moodle

24 05 2008

Here’s today’s awesome m-learning find: a website where anyone can create a multiple choice quiz which is compatible with the vast majority of current mobile phones (it runs as a Java application, which most of today’s cellphones support).

The site is called Mobile Study, and the finished multiple choice quizzes can be downloaded to a mobile phone from a computer, by visiting a URL with a mobile phone browser, via an SMS message (a small allocation of free messages is provided for each account), or even by using a QR Code (which you should be able to do if you’ve been following my thread on 2D Barcodes!).  If you or your students prefer Social Web applications to mobile ones, it’s also worth noting that quizzes can be made for Facebook, and if a walled garden is your course approach of choice, yes, quizzes can even be imported into Moodle.

Given that there are a large number of ACT Innovative E-Learning Projects that have, as a component, various formative assessment needs, this site should prove to be extremely useful!

You can try out some of the sample quizzes here – they can be done online to give you an idea of how the quizzes provide feedback, or you can install the sample quizzes to your mobile phone for the full m-learning experience.

Happy quizzing!

(via Ignatia Webs)

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Free: SnagIt Screen Capture

26 11 2007

TechSmith, who are still giving out copies of Camtasia Studio for free, are now also giving away another of their premium products, SnagIt.

Like Camtasia, SnagIt allows you to capture anything you see on your screen and save it and edit it for creating small instructional resources. However, SnagIt can be configured for “one-clicK” access on your computer, and allows you to capture high-quality still images as well as video. You can add effects and instructional text and graphics, and even make your tutorial interactive with clickable areas and text.

Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (English)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (German)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (French)

Click here for a key to register SnagIt 7.2.5 demo as a fully licensed version.

Because SnagIt outputs interactive Flash files as well as images and video files, it can be used in a number of ways to create mobile learning content for PDAs, mobile phones and media players. It could also be used by learners to document their mastery of a computer-based process or to create content for sharing with other learners.

(via Freebies Blog)

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Using Mobile Phones for 3D Interactivity

23 11 2007

This video demonstrates what can be achieved by the convergence of mobile and virtual technologies. Created as a promotion for Wellington Zoo (New Zealand), it allows printed codes to “come to life” using a mobile phone. As you move your mobile phone camera around the code, a virtual 3D model rotates, pans and zooms as if it were an invisible spectre standing on the surface, viewable only through the camera lens:

Download (FLV)

While this demonstration uses a proprietary format for the printed tags, it’s quite possible for other optical symbologies (such as QR Code tags) to be used for exactly the same purpose, since they incorporate orientation information in the tags themselves (the three large squares in the corners of each code), as well as data-link information.

This use of mobile devices also points to the use of mobile devices as future platforms for virtual worlds and educational simulations using tools such as SecondLife and the (open-source) Croquet (and its educational variant, EduSim). In my opinion, we should see touchscreen-interactive virtual worlds appearing on mainstream mobile devices within the next two years – with the corresponding ability for all of us to merge a mobile, virtual existence with our mobile, real one.

The potential applications of such a technology in education could be enormous!

(via Mobhappy)

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FREE Talking Mobile Phrase Books for Languages

5 07 2007

talkingphrases.jpgLastminute.com and Coolgorilla have made their talking phrasebooks FREE for a limited time (they used to cost £3 each).

These talking phrasebooks are great for learning languages “on the go”… the applications allow you to choose a phrase in English, and your mobile phone then “speaks” the phrase translated into whichever language you’ve selected.

Languages include French, Spanish, German, Portugese, and Greek… with topics including travel, accomodation, shopping and romance. 🙂

Use your Nokia or Sony Ericcson phone browser to go to http://www.mobilephrasebooks.com/ to download the phrasebooks you want, directly to your phone.

(via Pocket Picks)

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